By Michael Mdladla Ndiweni
Cowdry Park residents from Hlalani Kuhle and their counterparts from greater Cowdry Park last week overwhelmingly rejected prepaid water meters and challenged council to engage them to find a lasting solution to the perennial water problem. Over 150 residents on Saturday afternoon converged in a meeting called by the local councillor and the Bulawayo City Council to share with residents the proposed Bulawayo Public Transport policy, discuss bills and payments and prepaid water meters and vehemently rejected the proposal by council to install prepaid water meters. Residents argued that water is a right as enshrined in section 77 in the constitution of Zimbabwe and thus it cannot be prepaid and it has no substitute like electricity. They said that the move will affect social relations, strip many their dignity and they lamented that the cost of purchasing the meters and installation will be a burden to them as they are already struggling to put roofs over their heads. They demanded that city council installs water just like other locations and they also pledge to provide labour if council has no capacity to hire casuals to dig trenches for sewer and water distribution.
A council official Mr Misheck Mpofu, pressed to clarify the council position on prepaid water meters, he revealed that council has no capacity to roll out the prepaid water meters, casting aspersions on residents and also questions on who is pushing for this project and for what benefit. Residents challenged the city council to engage stakeholders and do the right thing at once than these trial and errors to the already disadvantaged community. The council move comes on the heels of a massive demonstration two weeks ago by Civil Society Organizations against Prepaid water meters that saw over 2000 residents taking to the streets to reject prepaid water meter proposal by the Bulawayo City Council.
The local councillor also contradicted with the statement issued out by the Bulawayo City council that the prepaid water meters will be rolled out to the rest of the city, but he said that the prepaid water meters are a pilot project for Cowdry Park only, this also raised an ire from the residents who argued that what if the pilot fails that means the city council will have to start another project again. The council proposed to install prepaid water meters as an effort to force residents to pay their bills. In the same statement the council public relations department said that prepaid water meters will help people to budget. Questions such as what will people budget when the majority in Bulawayo are not employed due to closure of industries and those that are vending are surviving on hand to mouth.